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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: First Man, Once Upon A Deadpool, Hunter Killer, The Hate U Give, Cobra and more


First Man – I love the space program and space in general, and I love a good biopic, so First Man should have been right up my alley. Instead, I don’t think I could have been more disappointed. I absolutely loved director Damian Chazelle’s first two movies, Whiplash and La La Land, and because of that, the disappointment doubles. First Man is — simply put — incredibly boring. It’s overly long, way too technical, and Ryan Gosling’s performance is so muted it’s almost absent. Maybe Neil Armstrong really was a reserved and sombre man, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a good movie. And here’s a tip for filmmakers: I applaud accuracy as much as the next guy, but when your film turns into two hours of NASA/Naval tech speak that’s accurate to a fault, it makes for a film that’s extremely unenjoyable. While there’s some great cinematography and the film looks nice, honestly, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. What a huge disappointment. First Man is available on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and one positive thing I can say is that it looks and sounds absolutely outstanding in the premium format. So if you do like the film, you can enjoy it in the best possible viewing format.

Once Upon a Deadpool – I don’t know what to make of this movie. On the one hand, re-editing Deadpool 2 to a PG-13 version seems like a terrible idea. A big part of what makes the Deadpool movies so much fun is that they hold nothing back. On the other hand, adding in new footage of Deadpool reading to Fred Savage (a la The Princess Bride) is nothing short of brilliant. Do I think it’s a movie you should suddenly be showing to your kids, even with the PG-13 rating? Not really. Is it as satisfying an experience as the original R-rated cut of Deadpool 2? No. But is it fun and wacky in its own way? Absolutely.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – Disney’s latest live-action big-budget extravaganza was a pretty big misfire at the box office, failing to get audiences into theaters and never really generating any buzz at all. I don’t know why it bombed, but I don’t really know why it didn’t fare better, either. The film is ultimately nothing special; it’s got a great cast and some terrific visuals, but the story isn’t all that interesting. That said, it’s a hell of a lot better than the live-action Alice in Wonderland, and that movie grossed over $300 million just a few years ago (which I’ll still never understand). As it is, it’s an enjoyable-enough movie that will thrill some and bore others.

Reign of the Supermen – Following up on the Death of Superman animated movie from a few months ago, this latest DC Universe Animated movie adapts one of my favorite Superman stories of all time, in which we see four brand new “Supermen” arrive in Metropolis to take up the mantle of the deceased hero. Are any of them the real Superman? Are they good? Are they evil? Well, that’s the fun of watching the film, which I enjoyed quite a bit. The DC animated movies can be hit or miss for me, but I’ve really liked this two-part film.

Hunter Killer – It’s a shame that Hunter Killer was DOA at the box office because I thought it was a completely kick-ass film. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a really good submarine thriller, and Hunter Killer is that and more. There’s a whole secondary sub-plot that follows a SEAL team on land, which gets us out of being stuck in the confines of a sub for the entire movie. The end result is an action-packed, suspenseful military thriller that harkens back to the best of the Tom Clancy movies. It looks great, the cast is fun, the special effects are solid, and the action sequences are top-notch. If you want to see what a 2018 version of The Hunt for Red October would be like, check out Hunter Killer.

Goosebumps 2 – Despite an entirely new cast and storyline, Goosebumps 2 is still a lot of fun. The story has been moved to a new town, but it still ties into the world of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books. And while Jack Black isn’t a huge part of the film, he does join the proceedings toward the end, which is nice to see. The new young cast is perfectly fine, and the film has the same kind of silly, not-too-scary scares that will be a lot of fun for the tween audience to take in. It’s not a masterpiece, but like the first film, it’s a fun way to kill 90 minutes.

The Hate U Give – I feel like I’m required to heap lavish praise on The Hate U Give simply because I review movies, and it seems like every critic has universally complimented the film as an Oscar-worthy drama. And I’ll be honest, I did really like the film, but I do have some problems with it. First of all, at two hours and 15 minutes, the film is a bit too long. I also feel like the ending wraps things up a little too nice and pat, a little too quickly. For as long as the film is, it doesn’t take very long for things to get wrapped up with a nice bow on top. That said, the film is really well done, presenting a thoughtful and layered look at the complex issues of race and police brutality that plague modern America. The performances are also top-notch across the board; there isn’t one bad role in the bunch (and watching Anthony Mackie play a straight-up bad guy is utterly chilling). The Hate U Give is a terrific film, even if it’s not quite as perfect as I’ve seen some critics make it out to be.

Johnny English Strikes Again – It’s hard to believe they’ve made three of these films now. I mean, Rowan Atkinson basically doing a version of Mr. Bean as James Bond seems like a surefire hit, right? Okay, maybe not, but I guess the films have done well enough (presumably because their budgets are pretty low) to warrant a trilogy. Well, here’s the good news. If you liked the first two films, you’ll probably like this one too. It’s filled with the usual inane humor and sight gags that are good for enough chuckles throughout to make you not regret watching it. It’s certainly nothing great, but I’ve had worse movie-watching experiences, that’s for sure.

Boy Erased – Joel Edgerton wrote and directed this film, a drama about the son of a pastor who begins to explore his sexual identity, only to find himself relegated by his parents to conversion therapy, where he begins to clash with the leader of the program (played by Edgerton, taking on triple duties.) The film features some excellent performances, including Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the boys parents, and Lucas Hedges in the main role. It’s a hard film to watch at times, but the message here is a good one, and Edgerton clearly has some skills that go beyond just appearing on camera. A worthwhile watch.

Cobra – Even if this isn’t one of Sylvester Stallone’s best films, this ‘80s actioner is fun to revisit on this new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Shout Factory. If the words “Crime is a disease and he’s the cure” don’t ring a bell for you, then you need to dive into this testosterone-laden shoot ‘em up ASAP. Stallone is pretty monosyllabic here, but there’s a good supporting cast (including Andrew Robinson and Brian Thompson) and this disc includes a bevy of new extra features, making it a real value for the money. Like I said, it’s not one of Stallone’s best, but if you’re a fan of Sly, it’s still fun to watch.

Suspiria – Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, and Chloe Grace Moretz star in this psychological horror thriller that’s gotten some extremely strong critical reviews. Technically a remake of the Dario Argento horror classic, it’s a pretty new and different take on the material. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve never seen the original, but this version didn’t make me want to track it down, and that might be its biggest fault. The film is two-and-a-half hours long (which is way too long) and it’s all atmosphere and dancing and weird-for-the-sake-of-weird, like a less Oscar-worthy Black Swan. I’m sure there’s an audience for this film, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Waterworld – Arrow Films continues its quest to become the next Criterion Collection with their new Blu-release of Waterworld. This is the ultimate version of the film that any fan will want. It contains three different cuts of the movie on three discs (the theatrical version, the extended television cut, and the “Ulysses Cut,” which is like the TV version without all the censored bits being censored). Then, on top of that, you’ve got a ton of extra features, a gorgeous painted slipcover, and a 60-page full-color book. I’ve always liked Waterworld, even if it’s not a masterpiece, but this new version of the film really offers up everything a Waterworld fan could want, all wrapped up in an absolutely gorgeous package. Well done, Arrow films!

Also available this week on Home Video –

  • The Wife – Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce turn in searing performances in this drama (with hints of a thriller embedded in it) that has resulted in another Oscar nomination for Close. This is one of those films (one of several this week, actually) wherein the whole does not equal the sum of its parts. While the performances are outstanding and the story is somewhat interesting, it’s not the kind of film that really drew me in. It’s a solid movie and the acting is terrific, but I never got fully engaged with it.
  • The Oath – I like Ike Barinholtz a lot, and he plays multi-hyphenate on this comedy wherein he not only co-stars with Tiffany Haddish (taking on more of a straight role for a change) but also writes and directs the film. The film tackles some political issues yet manages to remain a pretty broad comedy, which I really enjoyed about it. Barinholtz and Haddish are fun together on screen, and the supporting cast — which includes John Cho, Nora Dunn, Billy Magnusson, and Carrie Brownstein — add a lot to the proceedings. Worth a watch for a fun diversion.
  • Screamers – Peter Weller stars in this ‘90s era sci-fi thriller that holds up surprisingly well in its Blu-ray debut. I love revisiting these movies because I don’t remember liking Screamers all that much when I saw it originally. Now, with lowered expectations and a nice Blu-ray presentation from Shout Factory, I had a lot of fun watching it. It borrows heavily from the Aliens and Terminator playbooks, but for a low-budget sci-fi actioner, I really enjoyed it this time around.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Steve Martin and Michael Caine star in this sharp comedy from the late ‘80s. It’s interesting, because I remember Dirty Rotten Scoundrels being a relatively good hit back in the day (although maybe that’s just my memory at play), but it’s a film that sort of faded from public consciousness rather quickly. So it was nice to revisit the film, watching Caine and Martin as dueling con men with VERY different methods. Sure, it’s a bit dated now, but for a film that’s 30 years old, it still holds up as being a fun watch.
  • 10 to Midnight – I had never seen this Charles Bronson thriller before this new Scream Factory Collector’s Edition came out — hell, I’d never even heard of it, to be honest. But I have to say, this 1983 thriller was extremely enjoyable. Bronson plays a cop hunting a serial killer, and… well, that’s pretty much it. From there it’s your typical serial killer thriller, but it works and it works well, in part because it’s not afraid to pull any punches. Bronson does what he does, and there are some pretty intense scenes in the film, making it a really taut, tense, enjoyable thriller.
  • American Renegades – I wish the cover art for American Renegades wasn’t so generic, because it’s actually a surprisingly good action film. Starring Sullivan Stapleton of NBC’s Blindspot, the film follows a team of Navy SEALS who try to recover a cache of stolen Nazi gold. From the bottom of a lake. In enemy territory. Yep, just another walk-in-the-park mission. The film has everything it needs: good action, humor, charm, and J.K. Simmons in a supporting role. And let’s face it, J.K. Simmons makes everything better. This is one of those under-the-radar films that’s worth tracking down.
  • Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls – While Jon Lovitz starred in the original Benchwarmers and he also stars in Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls, there’s really no connection between the two films. This time around, Chris Klein takes center stage as a former major league prospect turned lawyer, who has to win the big game and the big case. And while the original Benchwarmers was far from a comedy classic, it was at least pretty funny at times. This film is just a lowest-common denominator comedy that is very short on laughs yet is still somehow easy to watch. It’s not great, but you can throw it on and not have to think for 90 minutes, so I guess that’s something.
  • The Game: The Complete Series – While never a ratings powerhouse, The Game ran for nine seasons, which you have to respect. Now, this series about the wives and girlfriends of NFL players (and their lives, loves, dramas, and tribulations) has been collected into a relatively-budget-priced box set that sees all nine seasons on 20 discs, giving fans 147 episodes in total in a nicely-packaged set. I’d never really watched this show too much in the past, but it turns out its a pretty solid dramedy with a good cast (not made up of big-name stars, but talented actors nonetheless) and a probably-pretty-accurate look at life behind the big stars of the major sports leagues. Fans will be happy to have the whole series in one collection, especially after the show jumped networks during its run.
  • Humans 3.0 – Humans may be under the radar right now, but I won’t be surprised if it develops the kind of following that fellow BBC programming like Orphan Black. Taking place in a world much like ours, the world of Humans has one major difference: here, robotic humans called Synthetics are commonplace. These robots become like part of the family for some people, but other people still don’t trust them. That’s a very oversimplified explanation of the plot of this series, which is a character drama with some interesting social commentary mixed in. It also follows a number of different characters in the way that the best TV shows do. Compelling, fascinating, and well-acted, this is a show that’s worth tracking down.
  • Blood Brother – Trey Songz stars in this revenge/cop action-drama about a cop trying to stop an ex-con who’s trying to get revenge on a group of friends he believed betrayed him. Rap star Fetty Wap also makes his acting debut in this direct-to-video film that isn’t half bad. I mean, ultimately, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but Trey Songz is decent in the lead role and the film is pretty easy to watch.
  • Slice – Speaking of rappers in their film debuts, Chance the Rapper, one of the biggest names in hip hop, makes his in Slice, a horror comedy about a slew of murdered pizza boys and the supernatural forces at work behind them. The film is… interesting. It’s got as great cast that includes Zazie Beetz, Chris Parnell, Joe Keery (from Stranger Things), and Paul Scheer, and the film tries to blend comedy and horror, but it’s a mish-mash of a lot of things and it doesn’t always work. It has its moments, and I’m sure there are people who will think it’s a cult classic in the making, but I don’t know that its anything that memorable.
  • Studio 54: The Documentary – I’m sure pretty much everyone knows what Studio 54 was: the ultimate nightclub that ruled the party scene in Manhattan through the late 1970s. But even if you know what Studio 54 was, this excellent documentary takes you on a deep dive into what it was like in the club’s heyday. With an interview with Ian Schrager (one off the club’s founders) as part of the film’s centerpiece and filled with rare footage from inside the club, the film goes into the rise and fall of the club, the celebrity nightlife, and the scandal that plagued the club. It’s a fascinating look at another time and another world.
  • Best Friends Volumes 1 and 2 – Well, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sistero are back. If those names don’t mean anything to you, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this two-volume film extravaganza. If, however, you recognize them as the men behind the uber-cult-classic The Room, then you’re in for a treat. The films are billed as “comedy thrillers” but it’s hard to see them as thrillers that are being called comedies more because they have to than because they want to. Are the films bad? Yes. Are they also good? Well, no. But are they so bad they’re good? Pretty much. If you’ve seen The Room (or The Disaster Artist, which I highly recommend), then you know what you’re getting into with this. I don’t know that it needed to be two volumes — one movie would have sufficed — but at least its two volumes of glorious insanity.
  • Fuller House: The Complete Third Season – Full disclosure: I was never a huge Full House fan. Don’t take that the wrong way; I liked the show just fine when it was on. But I was a casual watcher at best, never catching more than a few episodes a season. I never watched it religiously or regularly, so I come at Fuller House without the haze of nostalgia that many fans might have. Standing on its own merits, then, Fuller House is a perfectly acceptable family sitcom, but it’s nothing special. It’s fun to see the cast all grown up (and the guest appearances by some of the original adult cast members are nice as well), and the show does manage to keep the feel of the original series (this isn’t borderline R-rated comedy like Two Broke Girls or Two and a Half Men.) Fans will probably enjoy it, everyone else can easily ignore it.
  • Let The Corpses Tan – This is an oddball of a film. While the titles makes it sound like a zombie movie, it most assuredly is not. Instead, it’s a sort of crime-film-slash-western, with some hallucinatory imagery thrown in for good measure. Based on a classic pulp novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid the film is a throwback to the Italian films of the 1970s (going so far as to incorporate some Ennio Morricone music cues from back in the day), even though it just came out in 2017. The film doesn’t feel like much else I’ve seen recently, and I think that will be what makes some people like it, even if it wasn’t quite my thing.
  • Sarah T.: Portrait of an Alcoholic – This infamous TV movie from the 1970s stars Linda Blair and Mark Hamill, and it was directed by the great Richard Donner. This is one of those “movies with a message” that were all the rage on the TV landscape in the ‘70s, and while it is undoubtedly dated, it’s still a solid watch. Mark Hamill and Linda Blair play boyfriend and girlfriend, which is funny to see nowadays, and its easy to see Donner’s talent at work, A fun throwback.
  • Suburbia – Penelope Spheeris has directed a number of successful films, including Wayne’s World and Black Sheep, but it’s her music-based films for which she’s perhaps best known, or at least most revered in film circles. Her Decline of Western Civilization movies are considered seminal works in the music documentary fields, while 1983’s Suburbia blends a dramatic narrative with live punk-music performances, resulting in a powerful debut film that can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they like punk music or not. Now available as a Collector’s Edition from Shout Factory, this new Blu-ray edition comes with gorgeous new cover art and a ton of extra features, making it a must-have for fans.
  • Here and Now – Sarah Jessica Parker leads an all-star cast in this meandering drama about a jazz singer who receives some bad news, and then spends her day, well, kind of thinking about her life. I can’t say I really enjoyed this film, despite the presence of Parker and a likable supporting cast (Simon Baker, Common, Taylor Kinney, Jacqueline Bisset, and Renée Zellweger). It’s not that it’s a bad film, it just doesn’t really go anywhere and it’s a bit overly self-serious. I’ve seen worse; it’s not a terrible film, it just never gets going anywhere all that interesting.
  • I Am Not A Witch – Submitted by the UK as an entry for best Foreign Language Film, this unique movie from Zambian-born Welsh director Rungano Nyoni stands apart from the crowd. The story is about a 9-year-old girl in Zambia who is accused of being a witch and sent to a “witch camp” (think conversion therapy, but with threats of being turned into a goat) and inexplicably becomes a local celebrity. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this movie entirely, but I can say it’s quite different from anything else I’ve seen recently and overall, I found it to be enjoyable.

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